Prisoners’ and Victims’ Claims Bill

I rise on behalf of the Green Party to explain why we will be voting for this bill. I think at the heart of it is that we support human rights. That seems to be a concern to some of the other members here, but we support everyone’s human rights. We support members of Parliament human rights, prisoners’ human rights, and victims’ human rights.

We are obliged to do that, as the last speaker indicated, by international conventions such as the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment that he mentioned and the international conventions that Edwin Perry read out, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the other conventions that require us to give redress for harm done by the State to any citizen, including people in prisons.

This redress does not give an exclusion. There is no subclause in these international conventions saying “and not financial redress”. That is part of it.

One of the things about a person in prison is that the forms of redress are somewhat limited, by virtue of the fact that the person is in prison. We can let them out.

Marc Alexander: They are supposed to be there.

KEITH LOCKE: I think Mr Alexander, who has interjected, may be a bit upset if that is a form of redress. One of the other ways is to give them financial redress, which is not a lot of use to a person in jail but it does go some way to accommodating the mistreatment.

We do see problems in this bill in that under the provisions, in some cases the whole of the compensation could disappear as a result of a claim, and that could be a disincentive for prisoners taking claims for mistreatment.

It is not just a problem for the prisoner, whose human rights we should identify with. If we want to have a disincentive for the state persecuting any citizen, including those in prisons, we have to have a penalty on the State. That is part of the justice system in New Zealand, and internationally.

I object to the idea expressed by Edwin Perry, that when people go to jail they lose all their human rights. He quoted a friend of his who said that. To not identify with a human being when that person is being mistreated, to treat that person as some sort of beyond the pale person we cannot identify with in any way, is exactly the psychology of the offender.

The people who brutally killed those two old people the other day presumably were thinking that way – we do not identify with that old man and woman; they are not human beings; we can kill them. That is the psychology of the offender, and unfortunately that is the psychology I hear around me in this Chamber tonight and from the people who are interjecting. They are being as bad, in some ways, as those violent criminals.

The other concept of justice that the Greens promote – restorative justice – is the opposite. It sees both the offender and the victim as human beings and tries to get them to see each other as human beings. It also tries to get the prisoner to show genuine remorse, and thereby to rehabilitate himself or herself and be less likely to commit more crimes.

If we are really concerned with victims, we want to stop reoffending and people committing more crimes. We are supporting this bill not because it is a good bill – we think it is a bad bill. If United Future had had its way it would have been a terrible bill. It would not have had a sunset clause.

When I say it is a bad bill, it does have some good features that Nandor Tanczos will be talking about later, in terms of some benefits for victims.

People are saying that Victim Support is against this bill. I was on the select committee when Victim Support came and said that it was totally against this bill.


Parliament – Second Reading